How I Use Biblical Software To Prepare Sermons

I have been preaching for nearly forty (40) years and my research and study has been tremendously accelerated by the use of biblical software for almost half of those years. There is much debate today among preachers and scholars as to which is better; electronic books or paper books? With me, it all depends. Some of my resources are in both forms. Sometimes I like to sit and read with a physical book in my hands and then, at other times, I like to sit in front of my computer to do my studies, sermon preparation, and research. But I want to share in this post, how I use biblical software in the study, research and preparation of sermons and/or biblical lessons. I have tried several across the years, but the three that are my bread and butter tools are: Logos 7, BibleWorks 10, and WordSearch 11.

After much prayer and meditation, that usually begins on Monday evening, by noon Tuesday, I usually have made a general choice (unless I am in the middle of preaching a series) of what I am going to preach the coming Sunday. After selecting a biblical text, I read the text several times in several different (I read the text at least 3 to 4 times in at least five, sometimes as many as eight different versions) English versions of the Bible. I do this using the BibleWorks software. BibleWorks is excellent for doing this because the program allows you to arrange the various versions side-by-side or vertically to quickly note differences in the versions. There is also a tool within BibleWorks that will color-highlight the differences for you. I do this to get a general feel of the flow and meaning of the text. After completing this step, I then do the same thing; comparing the various Hebrew (if it is an Old Testament text) and Greek (if it is a New Testament text) Bibles that are available in BibleWorks. By the way, in BibleWorks, there are over 200 Bible translations in 40 different languages, over 50 original languages and morphology databases, with dozens of lexical-grammatical references, plus a wealth of practical reference works, all available in the standard package at no additional costs! It is during the comparison-analysis of the original languages that I also conduct my word-studies. My first goal is to establish the integrity of the text. I especially want to do this if it is a familiar text because I want to find out, as best I can, what the original author actually said and/or meant, as opposed to the popular or common ideas of what the author said and meant. The only way to do this is by a thorough investigation of the text in the original languages. Now, if you have not studied the original languages, BibleWorks will greatly aid in overcoming that deficiency because, even as you look at the various English versions, you can hover your mouse over the English words and BibleWorks will display the corresponding Greek and Hebrew words and meanings in pop-ups and in the analysis window of the software. This information is available in an instant! It would take at least five to ten minutes per word to do this manually with paper books! Now, I use BibleWorks, primarily to establish the integrity of the text and for my initial word-study analysis, usually this process takes about a day of study or about 3-5 hours. As a pastor, husband, and part-time student, there are also many other demands upon my time. But usually the first day of study is devoted to establishing the integrity of the text; using BibleWorks as my primary tool.

The next phrase of study is where the Logos Bible Software comes into play! Although BibleWorks has an extensive selection of Bibles in English and in the original languages, there are still some that are available in Logos that are not currently available in BibleWorks, such as the Amplified Bible, for example. So when I first open Logos, I continue some of the work that I started with BibleWorks. This also includes consulting various lexicons and biblical dictionaries I have that are in Logos, but not in BibleWorks. In some cases, it is not a matter of these resources being available in one software and not in the other. In some cases, I purchased resources in the Logos format, rather than in BibleWorks because of how Logos cross-indexes and integrates the various resources. Plus, I’ve owned Logos longer than BibleWorks, so there are some things I know how to do in Logos that I have not learned how to do in BibleWorks. At any rate, I type the passage in and click go and within a matter of seconds, Logos pulls up every Bible, lexicon, dictionary, commentary and any other resources from my Logos library of resources that I have purchased across the years! As of the writing of this post, there are over 3,000 resources in my Logos library, representing an investment of over $13,000 in 15 years! The first tool I use with Logos is the Exegetical Guide. Type in the text and within a matter of seconds, every Bible (English, Hebrew, and Greek), lexical resource and Bible dictionary in my library is displayed; already cued or located at the text and the words of the text! Logos brings up in seconds what would take hours to do in paper books!

By the time, I’ve finished establishing the integrity of the text, using BibleWorks and Logos, it is usually late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. The plan is to spend study time Thursday consulting what various commentaries say about the text. Now, by this time, I already have a pretty good feel of the author’s original intent and where I want to go with the text, but I consult commentaries to compare my findings with what other biblical scholars say about the text and also to gain additional insights. I was taught, and I strongly agree, that preachers should never consult the commentaries before the completion of their own personal work of research and study. Going to the commentaries first will short-circuit the development of your own investigative and research skills and severely compromise what the Holy Spirit wants to say to and through you to your listeners. But even in dealing with the commentaries, don’t just read the ones you agree with or the only the ones of your own personal theological slant. Read commentaries that challenge and as well as confirm your findings, thoughts and views.

Most of the commentaries I own are found in my Logos software (nearly 1,500 volumes). To access my commentaries in Logos, I click on the Passage Guide tool, type in the text, click go, and every Bible, commentary and any other resource in my library that deals with the text instantly opens to my text and/or pulls up pertinent information about the text; all in a matter of seconds! However, some of my favorite commentaries are only in my WordSearch software, such as The Preacher’s Sermon and Outline Bible, Barnes Notes of the Old and New Testaments and a few others. There are also times when I consult commentaries that I only have in book-form. As a side note, there are some books that I own in book-form that I have also purchased in various software platforms. Some of these, I purchased years before I became computer savvy and once they became available in software form, I purchased them again because of the ease of use and the speed of research the software provides.

Well, Friday is the day I usually write the sermon! Yes, I am (as my Daddy used to describe preachers who use manuscripts) a paper boy! I have detailed that process in a prior post (From the Mind to the Manuscript: 5/2/13) But I just wanted to share with you a little bit about what biblical software platforms I use and how I use  them. If you are serious about biblical studies; whether you are a preacher, teacher, or just someone who loves the Bible, I strongly suggest you look into investing into a biblical software program. Of the three I use, each one has strengths and weaknesses. There are some tasks I do in one that can’t be done (I have not learn how to do) in the others and there are some task that could be done by any one of them with equal ease. But as I use them, they don’t compete with one another; they complement one another. You can check them out at their various websites for pricing and more exact details. You can find out more about Logos Bible Software at: www.logos.com BibleWorks at www.bibleworks.com and WordSearch at www.wordsearchbible.com.

The “Good” in Romans 8:28

romans 828One of the first promises of scriptures I learned as a new Christian that became a great comfort to me in times of trouble and adversity was Romans 8:28! The precious promise of that passage, not only comforted me as a new Christian, but it has been a source of abiding comfort throughout the years and even to this present day! Paul wrote to the Romans: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28 KJV)  The ESV (English Standard Version) puts it this way: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)  Yes! No matter what happens; the good, the bad, or the ugly, God is working it all together for our good!

Now, before we get to what the good is, I think it should be noted that this is not a blanket “everything is going to be alright” statement for everybody! Note that Paul didn’t say that all things work together for good for everybody! No! All things work together for good only for those that love God!  This “love” for God is not the emotional feeling that most people associate with love today, but rather it is a calculated faithful response to the grace of God.  The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:19: “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19 KJV) In the very next verse, John further qualified what it really means to love God when he said: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1John 4:20 KJV) In the Gospel of John, the writer equates loving God with obeying God. In John 14:15, Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (ESV) So, we can gather from these passages that the ones who love God in Romans 8:28 are the ones who love their brothers and sisters and obey the commandments of God! Paul further stipulates who they are by identifying them as; “the called according to his purpose.” God’s purpose is God’s will, therefore, all things work together for good to and for them that live in accordance to the purpose and will of God.

Now, with all that being said, we still don’t really know what the “good” in verse 28 is! We know that all things work together for good to and for those that love (obey God and love their brothers and sisters) God and live according to God’s will. But, what is that good? Is the good; all things working together to turn out in favor of or to the advantage of those that love God? Is the good; all things working together for the health, wealth or prosperity of those that love God?  Just what is the “good” that all things work together for and to those that love God, who are called according to his purpose in Romans 8:28?

Well, we should note at this point that the Bible was not originally written in chapter/verse form! Therefore, the thought in verse 28 continues in verse 29! And I think the “good” of verse 28 is identified in verse 29! Roman 8:29 says: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (KJV) “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Rom 8:29 NASB [New American Standard Bible]) From verse 29, we can deduct the good in verse 28 is to be conformed to the image of his Son! The good that all things work together for in verse 28 is that we might be like Jesus! Therefore, all things work together in the believer’s life for the expressed purpose of molding and shaping the believer into the image of Christ!

Now, what’s really amazing is this: Genesis 1:27 says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (KJV) When man sinned, the image was not destroyed, but it was tarnished! Paul described Jesus in Colossians 1:15 as the one; “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” (KJV) Therefore, since Jesus came to redeem man and Jesus was and is the image of God and all things work together to conform those who love God (accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior) into the image of Jesus. And it was always God’s purpose for those who love God to be conformed to the image of His Son. And man was originally created in the image and likeness of God, then the good in Romans 8:28 is all things working together to shape and mold those who love God into the image of God’s original intent!